Maple Weekend is here! Or was here. On March 19 & 20, with a bonus weekend on the 26th & 27th, dozens of maple syrupers held open houses so you can see how tree blood becomes liquid gold. I visited Maple Valley Farm in Corinth with a small group, and came away hungry for waffles.
That’s what sugar maple sap looks like. Maple Valley has over 100 acres of tapped trees, and like the Internet they’re all connected by a series of tubes. What starts as a steady drip from an individual tree turns into this gushing river of potential deliciousness. The magic happens in the sugarhouse, which you can see in the lead photo. A massive evaporator, fueled by an impressive supply of wood, boils the sap to concentrate the sugars. The evaporator room is filled with steam and vapor giving off a slightly sweet smell with a hint of caramel. It’s almost like being inside a pancake.
It usually takes around forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. I spoke briefly with someone in charge who said that this year they’re seeing a higher sugar content than normal, which means less sap is needed per gallon of syrup — less water needs to be boiled off — and thus more concentrated flavor. This year’s vintage should taste extra mapley. He was also optimistic about the season’s harvest; after a couple lackluster years, the weather is cooperating. The daily cycle of warmth and cold at the end of winter and beginning of spring literally pumps the sap through the maples’ veins, so an early end to spring slows production.
There was more than just syrup, if you need more than just syrup to make you happy, though I can’t understand that. These guys were showing off a variety of rifles and pistols, some of them dating back to the civil war, even melting lead and casting bullets right there — but firing blanks. They had some really interesting stuff and it’s pretty fascinating to see just how far this technology has come in a relatively short time. As a species we’re pretty good at coming up with novel ways to kill each other.
There were more guns, actually. Another group was demonstrating a bit about frontier life, and they weren’t firing blanks. They had some examples of tools you’d use back in the day — even before wireless Internet, how primitive — and a flint napping demonstration.
He hit the target, too.
Of course there was also syrup to bring home, and things right there to put it on. Our group made quick work of some maple cream covered cinnamon buns, but just about everything from flapjacks to maple cotton candy was available. A few minutes in the sugarhouse will definitely give you a fever, and the only cure is more
Look forward to Maple Weekend next March; if you don’t mind making a few phone calls, the website has a huge list of participating farms, and some of them may still have tours available. But do it soon, the end of the sugaring season is coming fast! Maple Valley Farm has been in the same family for five generations, and is located at 84 Harris Road in Corinth, NY. Their phone number is (585) 654-9752. Their syrup is delicious.
As usual, there’s a sideshow with more photos.